It’s a new year, which means that Lake Superior State University has published its annual Banished Words List for 2019. Many of the words and phrases that made the infamous list this year, as they were in previous years, were influenced by their use–and overuse–in politics and on the internet. Here are some of the words.
This picture incorporates (almost) three of the words from this year’s list.
Viral – I never really understood the use of “viral” because a virus (both the biological kind and the digital kind) is a bad thing, isn’t it? But when something goes “viral” on the internet, it usually has a positive or at least neutral connotation. The rate of infection of something viral on the internet also seems to increase exponentially. Often, I suspect that something merely has to be tagged as viral, and then it is so–like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Fail – Even “reputable” media use “fail”. This morning I opened the Globe and Mail to read the headline “World Juniors fail: What went wrong?” and the subtitle “Silver isn’t good enough”. G&M, you are a respected (?) national paper. Why do you hire preteens to write your headlines? Fail. Epic fail, even–which segues into the next word…
Epic – Did these internet-speak entries take long to make the list or what? Anyway, about an hour ago I was telling my husband that I would provide him with an “epic grocery list”. “Epic?!” he sputtered. I then had to explain that I meant epic in the original sense of the word. As in long, like Beowulf. (Or at a stretch–grand and far-reaching, like the movie Ben-Hur.)
Man up – This phrase is used in the same sense as “act like a man” or “suck it up”. My poor husband. I jokingly said this to him the other day, not even knowing it was a current catchphrase. Most likely it’d seeped into my consciousness without my realising it. Apparently it comes from the phrase “cowboy up”, which has the same meaning and is rooted in slang in the American west. I wonder if “pony up” is from the same area?
Refudiate – Sarah Palin will never get my vote, and not only because I’m Canadian. Still, I thought her “refudiate” tweet was hilarious, and so was the one where she was all, “Eh, who cares. Even Shakespeare made up words.” As long as language exists, it will be misused, abused, and ever-evolving. That’s why we have these lists!
Facebook and Google as verbs – Nothing new here. People used to their mistakes before they their documents, didn’t they? Somehow, though, I don’t think that the ‘verbing’ of these proper nouns will hurt their brands much.